The Spear Of Insult

As I’ve worked to build out the social media presence for Civil Defense League, I’ve noticed a very common problem: people pushing each other’s buttons. In some ways, social media has been like this since before it was social media. Message board flame wars, AOL chatrooms, phone calls, and ancient smoke signals were definitely all used to hurl insults, so this is nothing new. The only difference now is that it’s so easy to insult people, often with zero social consequences.

But, when someone insults you or something you care deeply about, it doesn’t mean that your reaction to the insult is pre-determined. Human beings aren’t robots, and we don’t have to do the same thing every time someone pushes a button. That leaves them in control, and do you really want to let mean-spirited people control you?

The book Verbal Judo by George J. Thompson gives us another way out. In the book, the author says that a martial arts instructor once told him, “When man throws spear of insult at head, move head! Spear miss target, leave man empty-handed, spear in wall, not in you.”

Another way to explain this: When somebody gives you a gift, but you refuse it, who owns it? When we accept an insult and let it stick in us, it’s ours to deal with. When we refuse the gift or move our heads out of the way, not only are we not hurt, but the person who threw the insult can’t very easily throw another one.

Another extremely important advantage to not taking the insult personally is that your heart rate doesn’t go up. Instead of preparing for a fight and shutting down your higher brain functions, your brain can still come up with intelligent ideas that can get you out of a bad situation.

There are several ways around getting insulted. Verbal Judo has some great ideas, like “strip phrases”, where you basically just acknowledge what they said in a nonchalant way (“I ‘preciate that”). You can also politely repeat what they said back to them so they can hear how crazy and awful the insult sounded (hold up a mirror for them).

However you choose to respond, make sure you’re not taking it personally and that you’re responding instead of reacting. That alone can defuse some very bad situations and keep everyone safer.

Featured post image by the U.S. National Park Service. Public Domain.

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      Jennifer Sensiba

        As I’ve worked to build out the social media presence for Civil Defense League, I’ve noticed a very common problem: people pushing each other’s button
        [See the full post at: The Spear Of Insult]

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